This Bachelor Conversation Brought Up The Biggest Problem With The Show

Photo: Courtesy of Craig Sjodin/ABC.
Well, it finally happened, Bachelor Nation, fan-favorite Bekah Martinez “outed” her deepest, darkest secret to 2018 Bachelor lead Arie Luyendyk Jr.: She’s 22 years old. Oh, the humanity! Despite the fact the ABC series is literally about extremely young women on the hunt for The One, Arie responded to Bekah’s big age reveal as though the young woman had announced she was actually a massive space slug who was using the body of an Instagram model-nanny to achieve its dream of intergalactic reality TV stardom. In case you were wondering, the average age of Arie's current remaining contestants, excluding Bekah, is the not-much-older-at-all number of 26-and-about-10-months.
While Arie’s “Week 4” behavior is base level infuriating — as he repeatedly admits, the “race car driver” already guessed Bekah was pretty darn young — it also spoke to the larger Bachelor issues in the modern TV world. Bachelor Nation, why is the sole goal of this show to get married?
Arie re-conjures this out-of-touch aim when Bekah announces her age. While the Bachelor considers, for a moment, just how different his and his youngest contestant’s lifestyles might be, most of Arie’s anxieties arise from whether or not Bekah will allow him to put a ring on it when filming is said and done. “I don’t want to get through this whole thing, be at the end, and then, afterwards, her realize, ‘I’m not really ready for marriage,’” he laments. After saying different variations of that sentiment for minutes, Bekah finally asks, “But wouldn’t it be worth it if that did happen?” In essence this is the Instagram generation’s version of “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”
And, this is where Arie’s problematic response comes in, as he tells Bekah, “No, because I need a wife.”
Let’s think about what The Bachelor actually is for a moment. It’s a televised competition series where tens of women compete, sometimes via wrestling or demolition derby, for the attention of a single man. Filming lasts for a complete total of about two months, at best, and each contestant only spends time with the lead for a fraction of his day. In fact, no one spends a show-sponsored full, overnight evening with the Bachelor until the very end of the season. The last couple standing then has to hide their relationship for many more weeks so they don’t spoil the show.
Throughout 21 seasons of previous Bachelor history, this accelerated, fraught timeline of love hasn’t exactly worked. The only lead to ever get engaged at the end of this for-TV fairytale, marry his “winner,” and remain married to said winner was 2013 Bachelor Sean Lowe, who chose Catherine Giudici. 2009’s Jason Mesnick ended up proposing to Melissa Rycroft at the end of his Bachelor term, but actually tied the knot with his second runner-up and current wife, Molly Malaney. Everyone else has simply broken up.
The “process,” as contestants often call their Chris Harrison-led “journey,’ clearly isn’t working well, and it’s probable a lot of those flaws can be blamed on The Bachelor(ette)’s obsession with marriage. In real life, if a friend told you they were planning on getting engaged to a “race car driver” from Scottsdale, Arizona, who almost tricked them into drinking their own urine, you would have questions. If that same friend said they had only known this prospective husband for a year, you would have reservations. If that friend had only known this man for weeks, under even the most average of circumstances, you would have the words “I object” flying out of your mouth. We can all agree The Bachelor cannot attempt to qualify for “average circumstances.”
It’s possible these love connections would all last longer than the average pregnancy if everyone was focused on creating a strong post-show relationship rather than a mandatory wedding. You know, by talking about where they’re really going to live, really see their long-term future going, and how they’re really going to blend their lives together, as opposed to a single word about a Neil Lane diamond ring. In a world where Tinder rules dating, it’s doubtful the most devoted Bachelor Nation fan would fault a couple for recognizing maybe, just maybe, they aren’t totally ready to bind their lives to someone they’ve known for less than a full school semester.
In the last 365 days of Bachelor(ette), this is the second time this marriage-first problem has reared its bafflingly old-timey head. Famously, this same issue arose during Rachel Lindsay’s Bachelorette season, when she eliminated fan-favorite (personal favorite?) Peter Kraus for confirming he wouldn’t be ready to propose marriage, a lifetime commitment, after a few weeks in the reality TV fish bowl.
While fans accused Peter of not understanding the Bachelor Nation game — and he turned mean during the eyelash-ruining breakup — the heart of his argument made sense. It felt as though the Midwesterner was actually just trying to consider another route to happiness after playing out an entire relationship in front of the cameras; the kind of route where a stable relationship leading to an actual lifetime of love is just as appealing as the title of “engaged.”
Look, I'm not saying Arie, a 36-year-old man, shouldn’t be more careful with his heart when it comes to woman 14 years his junior who is up front about the fact she can’t give him the “assurance” he’s looking for. What I am saying is, the Bachelor should be assessing his relationships on whether he sees a life-making future with each of these ladies, including Bekah — not whether they’ll definitely say “Yes!” to those four little words at the final rose ceremony.
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